Proposed Legislation Could Make Death Row More Crowded - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

01/29/07

Proposed Legislation Could Make Death Row More Crowded

Want to start some hot debate? Ask about the death penalty.

Almost everyone has an opinion, and now there's some new fuel to the fire. Some Georgia lawmakers want to make it easier to execute, but getting rid of the requirement that jurors make a unanimous decision.

People who feel strongly on both sides of this issue, and have a vested interest in how it turns out, told WTOC they were surprised the issue was even coming up in the legislative session.

Back in 2005, Connie Zentiska watched a jury spare the life of Deanthony Griffin. He was the man who killed her daughter, Ashley, along with Ashley's brother, David Cribbs Jr., and their father, David Cribbs, Sr.

"he can see his family," said Zentiska Monday night. "He can hug his mom and dad. He can still receive birthday cards, Christmas gifts."

She says if legislation being introduced now had been in effect two years ago, Griffin would not have gotten life.

"I think Griffin would be on Death Row," said Zentiska.

That legislation would change the rules in death penalty cases, so the prosecution would only need a 9-3 majority of jurors, instead of the current rules saying it's got to be unanimous.

Defense attorneys say the proposed legislation is ridiculous.

"It almost takes away from the seriousness of it," explained Brian Daly, a Savannah-based attorney. "I mean, a person's life is in jeopardy."

Daly has one client on death row already: Dorian O'Kelly.

He says death penalties are supposed to be tough to get, because they're the type of penalty that simply can't be reversed. Zentiska says killers convicted in a court of law already get more leniency than they could ever afford their victims.

"They didn't have the chance to ask 12 people 'Do I get death, or do I get life?'" said Zentiska.

Daly countered: "He got a death sentence. It's just a much slower death sentence. He's going to spend the rest of his life - it's life without parole."

This legislation was just introduced Monday, so it's still in the very early stages. People on both sides say it will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

 

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